Nazi Secrets Documentary
May 4, 2012 6:19 PM   Subscribe

Documentary filter: MrK heard glowing description of a history documentary about Nazi propaganda in 1936 in Berlin.

The gist of the film being that the German government made the entire city into a "potemkin village" to impress the world, who came for the Olympics. The documentary includes archival footage of the fake fronts and the real city behind it. The title involves something like "Nazi Secrets They Didn't Want You To Know." Sorry, don't know if it was a movie or tv, but suspect tv/history channel.

Anyone else remember seeing something like this?
posted by kestralwing to Grab Bag (2 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I wonder if someone might be confusing two or more films here. You might be thinking of Der Führer schenkt den Juden eine Stadt ("The Fuehrer Gives a City to the Jews"), which was a propaganda film shot in the Theresienstadt (Terezin in Czech) ghetto that was very much a "Potemkin Village" kind of deal with fake buildings, etc. This Wikipedia article gives some background. The film Prisoner of Paradise is about Kurt Gerron, the filmmaker forced to make the film before being deported to Auschwitz.

The 1936 Olympics was awash in propaganda, but to my knowledge it didn't feature the kind of "fake village" things you describe. That's not to say that someone didn't make a tv documentary playing up some of those aspects of the Games, though. I wonder if there's a tv documentary about Nazi propaganda that uses footage from the Leni Riefenstahl film Olympia and also talks about the Theresienstadt film.
posted by arco at 6:44 PM on May 4, 2012

On the occasion of the Olympic Games in Berlin, Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels addressed a gathering of the international press with the following words: "We did not intend to place Potemkin villages before your eyes. You may freely move around in Germany among our people. Thus you can observe the Germans at work and as they celebrate the games; you will see how the people have become better and happier.... I ask you to consider in what a [terrible] condition we had to take over this country and to keep in mind the incredible crisis that we had to overcome during the last three and a half years."

This statement was perfectly crafted for the festive occasion. Only a discerning architect with political savvy might have noticed that the monumental façade of the Olympia Stadium in Berlin was indeed a Potemkin village, despite Goebbels's claim to the contrary. Indeed, the virtual reality that he proclaimed to the international press hid more than it revealed. Any German reporters who sat in that press conference were no longer free to express their own views or those of their newspapers....

Olympic events in Berlin were carefully planned to present an image of a modern, united, forward-looking nation. The great majority of people who attended the games were impressed. A German visitor from one of the provinces put it this way: "Truly, this city has adorned itself in a festive garb. Clean, scrubbed down, freshly painted house fronts, clean streets on which you could not find even the smallest piece of paper. This cleanliness really gets the attention of the visitors. The main street, Unter den Linden, is no longer recognizable. The endless row of flags and the ocean of lights at nightfall when the new lanterns are lit leave a profound impression on us visitors, and it even impresses the Berliners, who are not easily fooled."

Foreigners were impressed as well. For one, the American author Thomas Wolfe was so taken by the spectacle that he wrote a story about it. One of his friends reported that Wolfe also fell in love with a pretty German woman, which made his trip to Berlin a completely intoxicating experience. Almost as an afterthought, Wolfe mentioned police hauling a person off a train, but he was too captivated by the brilliance of the Olympic spectacle to pay much attention. -- German Voices: Memories of Life during Hitler's Third Reich

Related to Theresienstadt, there's also Terezin Diary. I wasn't able to find an officially released "documentary" with this concept, but this doesn't preclude some obscure TV one-off.
posted by dhartung at 11:47 PM on May 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

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